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Real Madrid holds off Barcelona, Lionel Messi in El Clasico soccer rivalry

Real Madrid holds off Barcelona, Lionel Messi in El Clasico soccer rivalry
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema scored the first goal in a 2-1 win over Barcelona on Saturday in Madrid. Photo by Juanjo Martin/EPA-EFE

April 10 (UPI) -- Real Madrid scored two first-half goals and held off a late surge from Spanish La Liga rival Barcelona to win the latest edition of El Clascio 2-1 Saturday in Madrid.

Madrid's Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos scored in the triumph at Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. Oscar Mingueza scored for Barcelona.

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The victory moved Madrid into first place in the La Liga Standings. Barcelona sits in third place, behind second-place Atletico.

Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde sparked the first score with a fierce run from midfield to the top of the Barcelona box. He then sent a pass to the right corner flag ahead of right back Lucas Vazquez.

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The Madrid defender reached the pass, took a dribble and sent a pass toward the near post. Benzema ran onto the feed and used his right foot to flick a blind heel shot into the net in the 13th minute.

Madrid doubled the lead about 15 minutes later. Midfielder Toni Kroos scored off a free kick on that play.

Kroos took the kick from about 23 yards out. HIs attempt hit the back of Barcelona's Sergio Dest and deflected into the far-post netting in the 28th minute.

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Madrid kept the 2-0 lead through the halftime whistle. Barcelona answered about midway through the second half.

Barcelona and Madrid fought for several loose balls near the Madrid box during that sequence. Barcelona's Jordi Alba then sent a pass through the box, where he found Mingueza.

The Barcelona right back used his right foot for a one-touch shot past Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois.

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Barcelona had several more chances in the final minutes. The best opportunity to equalize came just before the final whistle.

Barcelona started that exchange with a long free kick. The ball sailed from midfield to the box, where Barcelona left back Clement Lenglet headed it to teammate Ilaix Moriba.

Moriba chested the ball down and smacked a powerful shot, but the attempt hit the cross bar. The ball bounced back out for several follow-up shots, but Barcelona couldn't finish.

Madrid faces Liverpool in the Champions League at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday at Anfield in Liverpool, England. Barcelona battles Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey at 3:30 p.m. EDT April 17 in Seville, Spain..

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